While 2020 was a trash fire for most of the world, business was booming in the video game industry.
Production was hampered by people working from home, but sales skyrocketed, and the games were as good as ever. For anyone looking for distraction over the holiday season, here’s a roundup of the best titles this year.
Hades: A “roguelike” adventure set in the Greek underworld, Hades mixes the hack-and-slash gameplay of Diablo with that “just one more try” addictive sensation of Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac.
Every time you die, you have to start again from the beginning—but it will always feel like you’re accomplishing something, and the story will keep you hooked no matter how long you play.
Final Fantasy VII Remake: This PlayStation 4 reimagining of the seminal 1997 dystopian role-playing game Final Fantasy VII isn’t just a modern-day take on a classic. It’s a rumination on what it actually means to remake a piece of art.
Call of the Sea: It’s 1934. You’re Nora Everhart, on an expedition to an island off Tahiti in search of your missing husband, Harry. What you find is a mix of adventure game Myst and the works of horror-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft—elaborate puzzles and a great story.
Demon’s Souls: Set in a ruined world full of death and decay, the PlayStation 5’s big exclusive, a remake of the 2009 title of the same name, isn’t for the faint of heart.
Like other games from the beloved developer FromSoftware Inc, this is one of the most challenging experiences you can have sitting in front of a TV set. But if you’re persistent, it can also be one of the most satisfying.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Every new game in Ubisoft Entertainment SA’s Assassin’s Creed series just keeps getting better. This time, we’re off to the 9th century for a Viking romp through Norway and England, full of raids, treasure, and delightful mysteries.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout: Fortnite meets Mario Party. You play as one of sixty jelly-bean-like creatures competing for dominance in a series of elaborate mini-games. The results are fun, chaotic and addictive.
Paper Mario: The Origami King: Nintendo Co. has traditionally used its Paper Mario series to experiment with weird and wacky gameplay. The Origami King is no exception, with a strange ring-based battle system and dialogue that never stopped making me smile.
Bugsnax: These critters are part bug and part snack. There’s Fryder, a spider made out of French fries; Pineantula, a pineapple tarantula; Spuddy, a baked potato crab, and so on.
Your job in this game is to photograph them, track their movements, figure out how to catch them, and enjoy a whimsical story starring a surprisingly deep cast of characters. Bugsnax is particularly great to play with kids.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps: One of the year’s most beautiful games, this 2D platformer is haunting and delightful. You play as a guardian named Ori in a world full of spritely creatures vaguely reminiscent of European folklore.
There’s a lightness to Ori’s movement that never gets old—it’s a blast to double-jump, glide and zip around these beautiful landscapes.
Jackbox Party Pack 7: There were no group dinners or cocktail parties this year, but at least there was Jackbox.
Rather than venture out and risk spreading, or catching, disease, my wife and I spent the bulk of weekends in 2020 on Facetime with friends, laughing through games like Quiplash, a joke prompt game and one of Jackbox’s standouts. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to do it again in person soon.